Everyone who knows me is aware of my fondness for the holiday season. My love affair for all things celebratory starts off with the dark and mysterious Halloween season. After a brief respite filled with turkey and gravy (my brother's a chef so it's always a wonderful meal for Thanksgiving), the season moves to snowmen, elves and Santa Claus. I know his is a baseball blog, an I promise to include some baseball in this post (Carlos Beltran and Gio Gonzalez will be dealt with), but I also wanted to point out a few interesting tidbits about the holiday season before getting to the hardball.

The actual date that Jesus was born is not known.

Christmas celebrations likely began in the late 3rd century.

German decedents apparently brought the Christmas tree to north America. At first they were just small trees that often rested on tables.

We can thank the Irish for bringing Christmas lights.

Santa Claus has a much richer history than you might think. Was he a real person? Click on the History Channel link for a video discussing the evolution of the bearded one.

ATHLETICS DEAL GONZALEZ

The A's are blowing up their team yet again dealing their top two arms this offseason in Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill (I broke down Cahill in his PLAYER PROFILE), and reports suggest they still might move Andrew Bailey as well. Jeez, when will it end in Oakland as all they do is trade “young veterans” for younger players year after year.

Athletics: A.J. Cole, Tom Milone, Derek Norris, Brad Peacock Nationals: Gio Gonzalez

The Nats get one of the best young lefties in baseball, a fact I mentioned in Wrapping Up The Winter Meetings. Gio has won 31 games, posted a 3.17 ERA and averaged 184 strikeouts a year the past two seasons. He leaves one of the better pitching yards in the American League for a slightly more offensive ballyard, but the move to the NL should negate that. Will Gio improve upon where he is right now? Maybe not (walks continue to be an issue). Even so, he remains a dominating left-handed starting pitcher, and there just aren't that many to go around.

As for the Athletics, this could turn out to be one of the greatest deals the team has ever made. Of course, there is no assurance that prospects will ever develop into the stars scouts project them to be, but there is no disputing that the Athletics raided the cupboard of the Nationals. The Nats kept their top-2 prospects – Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon – but the A's got the #2 and #3 youngsters in Peacock and Cole. Baseball America also listed Norris, a power hitting catcher with a big bat, as the 9th best player in the Nats organization. As for Milone, all he did was go 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA, 155 Ks and just 16 walks, sixteen, in 148.1 innings at Triple-A. For more on the foursome here's the Nationals Minor League report from noted minor league expert John Sickels.

The Nationals get a huge lefty arm to pair with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, and they clearly win this deal, in a landslide, in the short term. If we check back in two years though, this deal could be seen as the building block of another Athletics' dynasty. Time will tell.

CARDINALS SIGN BELTRAN

After losing the great Albert Pujols, the Cardinals did the best thing they could by signing the second best bat available on the free agent market (Prince Fielder was far too expensive for the team to consider). Carlos Beltran signed a two year deal for $26 million. It's a strong salary for Beltran and the two year commitment shields the Cards if Beltran develops more physical issues. Beltran no longer runs, he has just seven steals the past two years, but he can still hit as evidenced by his .300-22-84-78 line with the Mets and Giants last year. However, he's no spring chicken, he'll be 35 in April, and he did appear in just 81 and 64 games in 2009-2010 because of continued issues with his lower half. If he can stay healthy the next two years it's certainly possible that he could repeat the numbers he posted last season, but it was still wise for the Cards not to sign him for more than a couple of seasons.

Happy Holidays to all... and to all a good night.

'christmas tree at aka renga' photo (c) 2010, James - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Ray Flowers




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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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